Through our Meet The Targets grants-based program, the American Cancer Society supports national advocacy efforts to include NCD targets and indicators in government policies to help with addressing the cancer burden in developing countries.
MWECS was established in 2004 as a nongovernmental (NGO) and nonprofit organization dedicated to the national control of cancer. The society began its quest by focusing on pediatric cancer and has now started working on women’s cancers.
Cancer in Ethiopia: In 2008, four percent of deaths in Ethiopia were due to cancers (World Health Organization (WHO), 2010). There were an estimated 60,749 cancer cases in 2012, 19,654 male and 41,095 female (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2013).
Under the American Cancer Society Meet the Target grant, MWECS and its partners have helped to create an environment conducive to the implementation of the UN Political Declaration on NCDs by engaging members of parliament, policy professionals, and journalists. A few years ago, NCDs were not even in the top 20 health priorities of Ethiopia. Now, the government of Ethiopia lists NCDs as one of its top three health priorities. As a result, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has established an NCD unit with five staff members, and the WHO Ethiopia Office has recruited a full-time professional.
Advocacy work is being conducted at the highest level. For example, World Cancer Day 2014 was commemorated by the prime minister’s office and led by the First lady of Ethiopia, Her Excellency Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, who formed a National Cancer Control Committee. In May 2014, FMoH and the First Lady briefed the parliamentarians on how to prevent and control cancer. At the end of the briefing, the parliamentarians agreed to contribute their fair share to challenge the growing cancer burden in Ethiopia.
MWECS has invited national stakeholders including government, academia, researchers, NGOs, health professionals, donors, and others to a series of meetings to translate the UN Political Declaration on NCDs into reality. A major consultative workshop took place in 2013 with the goal of introducing the political declaration to more than 71 national stakeholders.
MWECS conducted a media blitz to educate the population on the threat of NCDs. It published five articles in major national newspapers. Also, one of the founders and general manager, Wondu Bekele, went on a media tour, appearing on local radio and TV. He gave a live, two-hour radio interview and also appeared on Diaspora TV, Ethiopian Broadcasting Service, broadcast from Washington, DC.
The process of developing a national program to prevent and control cancer has begun. In June 2014, Wondu Bekele and two FMoH officials attended a training program in Zambia on cancer control planning at which the Ethiopia country team agreed to develop a national cancer control plan soon.
MWECS has greatly stepped up its collaboration as a way of pushing NCDs higher on the agenda of civil society:
- It participates in the Consortium of Christian Relief & Development Associations, the largest gathering of civil society organizations in Ethiopia.
- It is one of the founding members and executive committee member of the Ethiopian Civil Society Health Forum, which consists of 134 health NGOs and is still growing.
- It is strengthening the new Consortium of Ethiopian NCD Associations and is in the process of forming a Consortium of Ethiopian Cancer Associations.
The work of MWECS is contributing to the WHO Global Monitoring Framework goal of a 25 percent reduction in risk of premature mortality from cancer. Wondu Bekele was selected by the Union for
International Cancer Control as one of two leaders to represent Africa at the African regional meeting held during the World Cancer Congress in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2014.
“Although we can’t change all NCD-related problems in Ethiopia in a short period of time, thanks to our Meet the Targets grant, we are able to change something today,” said Wondu Bekele. “Our partnership with our government and NGOs has helped change dramatically the socio-political environment for preventing and controlling NCDs.”